Everyday activities empower young people in foster care

11/04/2015
Photo: Girl with a dog on her arms

Everyday activities such as playing with pets help youngsters in foster care; © panthermedia.net/bonzami emmanuelle

Simply going shopping, playing in the park or reading are the kind of everyday activities that give young people in care a better sense of value and well-being. That's the finding of a new study from the University of Leicester into the participation experiences of young people growing up in foster care.

It calls on those who provide care to take better account of the value of the everyday activities young people engage with in their free time, such as, shopping, playing with pets, darts, board games, socializing, playing in the park, reading, crafting, swimming, singing, and membership based activities such as Girl Guides.

"It is already understood that participating in facilitated cultural and social activities has positive effects on children's and young people's wellbeing, personal development, aspiration and thus improves their life chances," states lead author Dr Lisanne Gibson, from the University of Leicester. "Our research has also found that everyday participation is an important domain through which young people learn about the social world, their place in it, and is a domain in which they feel empowered to express themselves."

The research involved ethnographic work by and with young women living in foster care, focus group discussions with foster carers and independent visitors, and workshop discussions with professionals involved in delivering social and cultural services to young people in
care.

For cultural and leisure institutions the research clearly demonstrated the potential for supporting young people in foster care through facilitating participation which connects with and values young people's everyday participation.

"What young people choose to do in their free time can be of great importance to how they see themselves and are the lived experiences from which they can and will construct their identities now, and in the future. This is a fundamental value of facilitated and everyday participation," the researchers state. "Current social policy and practice is focused on enabling care experienced young people to create positive narratives and memories about the self, the importance of which is recognized in the focus on life story work. Cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, with their expertise in memory and identity work are currently underutilized as tools for the facilitation of participation amongst young people in care."

The researcher also add: "We suggest that the responsibility to facilitate the participation of young people in care lies not only with those directly looking after children and young people and social services, but also with the organizations and venues funded by the corporate parent."

Dr Delyth Edwards, from the University of Leicester added: "This report is exciting because it speaks to, and is intended to be useful to, professionals working in social and health services, cultural practitioners, charities and the education sector, along with families, carers and foster carers."

REHACARE.com; Source: University of Leicester